Sunday 25 February 2018

Housing Minister rules out changing law to prevent evictions as numbers in emergency accommodation reaches record high

Charities feel progress in Dublin is being offset by the rising number of homeless families across the country

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy

Sasha Brady

The number of people now living in emergency accommodation has reached a record high with the national figure rising to 8,374 in September.

The number of homeless children has also increased to 3,124 and the number is expected to rise before the end of December as families in emergency accommodation face a bleak Christmas.

The newly published figures show the number of people in emergency accommodation in Dublin in September was 5,953, while 690 families were being housed in hotels and B&Bs across the country. Nationally, the number of homeless families increased by 89 in September.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy responded to calls from Focus Ireland to change the legislation that allows landlords to end tenancies at short notice which they claimed was the "single largest" cause of homelessness.

"We have done a couple of things around this in terms of the rental market to protecting people in their tenancy," Minister Murphy said this morning.

"One of the things that we did do earlier this year was we said that when a notice to quit was served on a family or individual that the landlord would have to notify the RTB so they could then get involved, intervene and help with services for the people in that situation.

"What we have found is that when people present to our emergency services one week before their tenancy is due to expire almost certainly they will end up in emergency accommodation.

"But if they present five or six weeks previously we can then get involved with things like Homeless HAP which allows us greater flexibility in the payments that we might pay to keep those people in that accommodation or to find them new accommodation with the HAP place finder service."

When pressed about changing the law regarding evictions, Murphy said: "We can't bring in a change to the law that would prevent evictions

"We have to make sure we find a balance between the people who are renting the property and the person who owns the property.

"There are very strong protections in law for the person who is renting the property in terms of how much time they have when it comes to the end of their tenancy, in terms of being able to find other suitable acommodatoon.

"And there are limits to the reasons a landlord can give when it comes to serving notice to quit," he added.

In the Dáil yesterday Minister Murphy said that the number of homeless families in emergency accommodation in Dublin fell for a second consecutive month in September. But while the situation has improved slightly in Dublin; charities feel progress is being offset by the rising number of homeless families across the country.

Mr Murphy stressed that the situation would improve with the introduction of more family hubs in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

However, Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin said that progress was too slow and more needs to be done. He also accused Mr Murphy of trying to spin the figures during a heated debate in the Dáil.

“You’re trying to put a positive spin to say that the number of families for two months in a row in Dublin has decreased and you are right,” he said.

“It decreased by 32 families from July to August and eight families from August to September – I welcome that.

“But the total number of children who will sleep in emergency accommodation tonight in the city is more than it was a month ago so what is not working?

“Your approach and the policies of your Government are not working.”

Following the announcement, Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) chief executive Anthony Flynn said the Government isn't doing enough.

"While the number of families that are homeless has dropped over the last six months the number of children homeless is rising month on month This shows that the government are doing enough to prevent people becoming homeless on one end of the scale and they aren't getting families out of homelessness into proper homes quickly enough to meet the demand," he said.

"This is a national emergency and needs to be treated as such, the state is failing."

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